Ring in the New Year!

December 14, 2021 by University District

Recipes at your Fingertips Make Entertaining a Snap.


If we’ve ever needed a reason to celebrate the new year, this might be it!


2022 has a great ring to it and is just around the corner. If the thought of a new calendar year has you thinking about a celebratory gathering, we have some ideas for entertaining including some excellent recipes for food and drink! 


Our inspiration comes from the design ideas of a local talent who shared some thoughts on our blog, and took to our Discovery Centre and transformed table settings into enchanting and enticing festive decor! Calgary designer extraordinaire Aly Velji’s holiday tablescapes on display at our Discovery Centre until Dec. 19 were our inspiration for entertaining themes that can carry us into New Year good times.



University District was delighted to welcome interior designer Aly Velji  to share some beautiful holiday entertaining decor ideas with our community. Enjoy the story we wrote about his inspiration and tips here.  However you choose to entertain, we hope you take the time this year to invite a few people to gather or make family time extra special with great food and drink! 


Let’s table-hop together to see what suits your mood!


Pick a theme. Fashion an invitation list. And fix up some yummy goodies to wow your guests. 



Rustic Chic, Perfect for Vegetarians!


For a rustic-chic tablescape, Aly gave a nod to warm wood tones with buffalo check. He elevated the setting with hits of black and of course a little sparkle. In keeping with this theme, we turned to our local Middle Eastern fast-serve and wholesome Osmow’s for a healthy, natural Fattoush salad recipe! At Osmow’s, Fattoush salad is the perfect compliment to its signature dishes. Follow the below instructions for how to recreate this recipe at home and be sure to pair with one of their vegetarian options such as Beyond Meat™ shawarma or falafel topped with their signature Light & Vegan Garlic Sauce!


2 loaves pita bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
2 teaspoon sumac, divided, more as needed
1 heart of Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 English cucumber, cut in half, seeds scraped, then chopped or sliced into half moons
5 tomatoes, chopped
5 green onions (both white and green parts), chopped
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon or 1 ½ limes
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sumac (lemon zest is a fine alternative)
Scant ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Break the pita bread into small bite-size pieces. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan until shimmering, and add the pita bread. Fry briefly until browned, tossing frequently. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the fried pita chips to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Season with salt, pepper and sumac. Alternative is to bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, green onions & mint leaves (optional). To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon or lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and allspice. Pour on and toss lightly. Finally, add the pita chips, and more sumac if you like, and toss one more time. Transfer to small serving bowls or plates. Enjoy!


We love the notion of Moroccan Mint Tea with ingredients from Save-On -Foods!

Other suggestions that fit this theme include grilled veggie skewers, an exotic cheese plate and how about a rustic apple crumble and custard for dessert!?


Where to go for a late afternoon New Year’s Eve walk before your meal?  Down by the river of course!  Bundle up and enjoy some fresh air in nature at Bowness Park, just minutes from University District! 



Timeless Elegance


Say “don’t mind if I do!” to fine food and bubbly this New Year’s Eve. We took our cues from Aly’s soft winter whites with organic elements like marble that made the table look universal. Adding elegance with gold tones and a natural element with dried florals kept it modern. This table setting calls for crudite, champagne and caviar! Here’s an easy and elegant way to serve hors d’oeuvres worthy of a fine bottle of  wine or bubbles and the company you are hosting. We love this simple yet slightly daring upscale recipe from Chef Michael Noble of the near-by-University District NOtaBLE Restaurant.


NOtaBLE’s Steak Tartare

½ tsp shallot ~ minced
1 tsp cornichon pickle ~ minced
¾ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp chive ~ minced
¼ tsp truffle puree or minced black truffle (available at specialty food stores)
3 ½ oz lean beef (striploin or tenderloin) ~ diced fine
Maldon salt ~ to taste
ground black pepper ~ to taste
1 organic brown egg yolk

1. In a chilled stainless steel mixing bowl combine the shallot, pickle, mustard, chive and truffle puree until well mixed.
2. Partially freeze then dice the beef, add to the previous mixture and combine well.
3. Season to taste with Maldon salt and ground black pepper.
4. Place in a serving bowl, create a small indent on top with a spoon.
5. Separate the egg yolk, taking care to discard the embryo part. Place the egg yolk in the indent.
6. Serve with potato chips or toasted bread crostini.

For a little more fancy insight, Market Wines University District manager Jeremy says when it comes to serving sparkles, “The most important thing is to know your group and what may be appropriate for the occasion.


“A good entry level price and get the party started wine would be a Lambrusco like the Solco del Emilia from Paltrenieri . This is a sparkling red wine with a bit of residual sugar and is super quaffable. Delicious on its own before a meal while cooking and catching up with friends and family or great for when you need something to sip on later in the evening.


“A good mid-level price point would be a Cremant from France. These are made in the same style as Champagne but because they are not from Champagne they don’t command the luxury prices. We really love our new Cremant de Loire wines from Arnauld Lambert. He has both a Chenin and Cabernet Franc Rose Cremant that are delicious on their own or great with almost any style of food. We especially love these with a cheese and charcuterie platter.


“For when you feel like celebrating there is often nothing better than a great bottle of champagne! There is actually a wide range of styles and flavor profiles with Champagne so we recommend coming in to talk with one of our knowledgeable staff members if it is a wine style you are not well versed in. A great way to go is a blanc de blanc, which means it is made with white grape varietals, our amazing wine Grand Cru wine from Suenen is a must try and super rare. A classic pairing would be freshly shucked oysters but this style will be great on its own or with most party food you will find over the holiday season.”

Cheers to that, Jeremy!


Graphic Statement in a DIY Diner.


When Aly chose to play up the colour component and create a gorgeous graphic statement with bold shapes and hues of pinks, we got nostalgic for diner fare! A throwback to the 80s, this look will be sure to create an impact. So will a gathering themed around a mini-diner vibe! Nothing says fun, fast and friendly when it comes to food like a Smothered Bacon Cheesy Hotdog! Recipe compliments of Save-On-Foods.




1 package Bun Sized Wieners
10 – 12 slices bacon, chopped and cooked crisp
10 Western Family hot dog buns, split
320g package Old Cheddar, shredded
Ketchup or BBQ sauce – optional


Heat oven to broil setting. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cook hot dogs per stove top directions.
Remove onto a plate lined with a paper towel.
Place buns split side up onto a prepared baking sheet.
Sprinkle a scant amount of cheese into each bun.
Place a hot dog over top.
Sprinkle remaining cheese over hot dogs and top with chopped bacon.
Place the baking sheet in the center rack of the oven and broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Cheese should be completely melted and bacon should be golden and crisp.
Serve immediately.



Pair these decadent dogs with air-fries, milkshakes, crisp iceberg salads and grilled cheese sammies! For drinks, how about an ice-cream float bar where guests can make their own spiked or sober concoctions. We love root beer and vanilla! What fun!


The holidays are about coming together … and what better way than over your favourite foods. Entertaining is made even better when you go all out with decor and music.  Playing host has never been easier thanks to Aly’s design ideas delightful drinks that are sure to refresh and impress!  Enjoy his earthy here — in case you missed the Discovery Centre display — and more ideas on our holiday decor interview!


With the table set, an invitation for a few close friends to gather, and the hope that the new year brings, any of these themes and recipes are enough to get your guests in the spirit of 2022!

From all of us at University District, we wish you and yours a memorable and happy new year!

How will you bring in the new year and with whom Share your stories with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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